By Daniel Arorwa
The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), through a consultative process, manages the development of national standards. The standards provide specific requirements for materials, manufacturing, testing, packaging and labelling to ensure that products, processes and services are fit for use. Some products have gazetted compulsory national standards that are designed to protect the health and safety of consumers. Compulsory standards are enforceable by law as per UNBS Act. Anyone who deals in products or services covered by compulsory standards must meet the requirements in order to protect the health and safety of consumers and users.
While some companies have consistently complied with the requirements of the standards, some driven by profit often circumvent the requirements of the standards with little regard for consumer protection. Such deliberate omissions have exposed the consumers to another form of insecurity. If we define security as the state of being, free from danger or threat. Then insecurity is the state of being exposed to danger or threat; lack of protection. When any entity decides to produce anything for public consumption with total disregard of the consumers’ health and safety, such an entity is causing insecurity. You could survive a bullet of an armed robber and yet get killed by a poorly processed or handled juice, cereals, snack, packaged drinking water, flour, groundnut paste to name but a few. So when UNBS is dealing with unscrupulous manufacturers who put the lives of the rest of us in danger, it should be done the same way we would do for a knife wielding thief! Business people should not put other people’s lives at risk in quest for profits. The economic model should consider profit, loss and market share with due regard for human life. Therefore, when producing for mass consumption, manufacturers should not make reckless mistakes that could endanger the health and safety of others. Manufacturers must hire services of a qualified quality controller whose role is to ensure that all quality requirements are met consistently. If you cannot serve contaminated or expired food to your own household, why then should you supply it to unsuspecting consumers? Any product or service is therefore a sum of an economic calculation made by the company between risk and reward. The health and safety of the consumers should not be seen as a financial cost but rather an opportunity to create a market. Economic growth should as well translate into improved quality of life. Prudent business ought to look at growing the net worth of its shareholders without compromising the well being of its consumers.
As consumers, let us be vigilant each time we go shopping; critically examine the expiry dates of products, ingredients, name and address of the manufacturer, firmness of the label, the general physical look of the product and whether that product is certified. Should you choose to delegate your shopping role to a helper, emphasize on these requirements to secure your family. Let us all treat a substandard product as a possible source of insecurity. Fighting insecurity begins with you.
The writer is the Manager of Market Surveillance at Uganda National Bureau of Standards